Apapa Gridlock: Presidential Task Team has failed – MARAN

Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority

Urges government to investigate collection of bribe by Police

By Adegboyega Oni

The Presidential Task Team on Restoration of Law and Order in Apapa has performed woefully in the execution of its assignment – unlocking of traffic gridlock on port access roads – as members of its enforcement unit headed by Commissioner of Police Hakeem Odumosu have turned the exercise into a meal ticket collecting bribes from truck operators, the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) alleged.

MARAN noted that over four months after its inauguration, the Presidential Team is yet to sign off as having executed the directive issued by President Muhammadu Buhari to eliminate in quick time the gridlock that has bedeviled the Lagos ports city of Apapa, permeating the environs.

According to the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN), the Commissioner of Police Hakeem Odumosu, the All Enforcement Lead of the Presidential Task Team on Restoration of Law and Order in Apapa, Lagos State, may have converted his position into an avenue for alleged self-aggrandizement and illegal enrichment of his cohorts.

Impeccable sources, according to MARAN, claimed that Odumosu allegedly operates a private office located in the Yaba area of Lagos where road haulage fleet operators routinely visit to lodge bribes ranging from N500,0000.00 to N2,000,000.00 to procure un-receipted approvals that facilitate movements of their vehicles over certain agreed periods to and from the ports in Apapa.

MARAN has this to say: ‘’Sadly, over four months after its inauguration following an emergency meeting convened by the President and chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on April 25, 2019, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the Presidential Task Team headed by Vice President Osinbajo as Chairman is yet to sign off as having executed the directive issued by President Muhammadu Buhari to eliminate in quick time the gridlock that has bedeviled the Lagos ports city of Apapa, permeating the environs.

‘’MARAN has closely observed and duly noted the drama being played out on the Lagos ports access roads over the years, including the respective reigns of the numerous task forces that took turns exacerbating the traffic situation while feeding fat on extorting road haulage operators and other commercial vehicle operators as the roads infrastructure and the environments of those locations generally degraded and presented serious security and health challenges.

‘’It is glaring that the Presidential Task Team is merely failure-on-arrival and incapable of restoring law and order in Apapa, even as its operatives, in the manner of those who worked in similar ad-hoc bodies in the past, excel in routinely intimidating and regularly extorting huge sums from road haulage operators.

‘’Apart from the illegal payment point derisively referred to as Odumosu Bank by hapless road haulage operators, at the Second Rainbow, Mile Two, and Kirikiri sections of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, squads of the Task Team routinely demand and collect the sum ofN80,000.00 per truck to issue what they claim are “approvals from our Abuja Office for the release of arrested trucks.”

‘’Similarly, the Task Team’s operatives routinely demand and receive bribes of the sum of N80,000.00 in order to accord truckers with unqualified trucks “priority access” to the Tin-Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC) and the Lagos Port Complex (LPC).

‘’Chief Remi Ogungbemi, the Chairman of Association of Maritime Trucks Owners(AMATO), couldn’t agree less with our position when he confirmed that extortions of various kinds are still going on among the task team members. He even echoed our fears that no amount of numbers of task forces can eradicate the malignant traffic gridlock on our port access roads until requisite infrastructures such as motorable roads, trailer parks and containers holding bays are provided.

‘’The constant recourse to task forces, we believe, is an ad-hoc arrangement that keeps postponing the evil days but which provide an open sesame for such task force members to enrich themselves.

‘’It is safe to conclude that, apart from the country’s Vice President being a member and also heading it, another major difference between the Presidential Task Team and its immediate predecessor is the slight change in the composition of the band of uniformed extortionists that form its members.

‘’Instructively, in creating the team, Mr. President had directed total withdrawal from the roads of military personnel who have been prominent and dominant features in several of the contrived exercises to unravel the Apapa gridlock.

‘’Even as the Presidential Task Team on Restoration of Law and Order in Apapa has strenuously avoided having the words “task force”, preferring “task team”, in its nomenclature, operatives of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) that are saddled with the task team’s “Security and Enforcement Supervision” have been most forceful in effecting this merely for the sake of extorting humongous sums from road haulage operators.’’

Worried over the inaction of the government to prosecute officers indicted by the panel set up by the Nigerian Navy to investigate allegation of bribe by its personnel, MARAN has called on the Police authority to investigate its personnel indicted of collecting bribes and urged the government to remove the Police from the Presidential Task Team as its presence has corrupted the system.

According to MARAN, ‘’The special panel constituted by the Nigerian Navy (NN) to investigate allegations of extortion of truckers on the Lagos ports access roads by its personnel that served in the disbanded Task Force had recently submitted its report to the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas.

‘’Varying degrees of sanctions were recommended by the panel, which had mainly been instigated by allegations of the sum of over NI 00,000,000.00 having been found in the bank account of a junior officer; the sum suspected to be proceeds of bribes collected on Lagos ports access roads whilst he was a member of the defunct Task Force.

‘’With the swelter of outrage over the overwhelming extortionist influences of the Police in the Task Team, it is only proper to wish that the Presidency dismisses the Police from the Lagos ports access roads, just as it did with the Navy in the wake of the strident complaints by distraught industry operators indicting the Navy for suffocating extortion, among other gross abuses of its privileged position as head of the defunct Task Force.

‘’Will the Police summon the needed will to toe the line of the Navy and investigate its personnel that make the lead security agency for the Task Team? MARAN expects the Police to do just and sanction those culpable accordingly.’’

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